Yes, Indian researchers have been testing male birth control — but the trial wasn’t halted due to ‘exploding testicles’

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on December 13, 2019 at 16:49
  • 3 min read
  • By Mary KULUNDU
Thousands of Facebook users have shared an article claiming that testing of a new form of contraception for men has been halted in India after participants were rushed to hospital with ‘exploding testicles’. Indian researchers have in fact been testing a male contraceptive injection for years, and the article uses some real details from the clinical trial. However, the claim that some of the participants’ testicles exploded is false and originated on a satirical website. The trial’s chief coordinator told AFP that the claim “does not have any base”.

The article was posted on December 3 on the Opera News website -- we’ve archived it here

"Male birth control testing has been halted in India after 30 test subjects’ testicles exploded during sexual intercourse. The testing of the male birth control involved 139 men under the age of 41 who were living with their wives and had at least two children each… Eight months later 30 of the test subjects were rushed to the ER with bust testicles," the article claims.

According to data from Crowdtangle, a social media analysis site, the article has received more than 28,000 interactions on Facebook, including shares, likes and comments. 

A screenshot taken on December 12, 2019 showing CrowdTangle data

Opera News cited “n pas” as its source -- a reference to a South African website (attention, site includes a graphic image) which had run the same text. However, the website’s Afrikaans-language tagline is “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou”, which translates as “news parody you like”.

 The site’s Facebook page contains a disclaimer in its header image warning that its content is satirical. 

A screenshot of the header image on the site's Facebook page, as seen on December 12, 2019

So it’s clear that the ‘exploding testicles’ story should not be taken seriously. 

However, some of the details from the article appear to have been taken from news reports about a real-life clinical trial for RISUG, a contraceptive injection for men which has been tested in India.

On December 6, the BBC published an article about the research under the headline: “Will the world's ‘first male birth control shot’ work?”. Like the satirical article, it talked about a trial in India involving 139 married men, under the age of 41, with at least two children. The trial involved the men being injected with the contraceptive, in the tube carrying sperm from the testicles to the penis. 

The clinical trial for the injection was conducted from 2000 to 2002, and the results were published last July. The laboratory report talks about some side effects, including temporary swelling of the testicles. But there is no mention of exploding testicles.

Radhey Shyam Sharma, the trial’s chief coordinator, told AFP that the claim was “fake”. 

“The issue of testicle rupture is a wrong statement and does not have any base,” he said in an email.

“As indicated in our published article, mild scrotal enlargement, on account of diffuse scrotal tissue oedema (swelling), was noticed within first-week post-injection in a majority of individuals, which disappeared within a one-month period without medication. Slight scrotal pain of a low grade was also noticed, which disappeared within one month. However, testicular rupture was not at all noticed and reported from any participating centres.”

According to the published results of the trial, the contraception worked on all but six of the participants. In these six cases, the drug could not be injected properly because of leakage from the syringe, or punctures in the tubes which carry sperm to the penis. In two of the cases, the men’s wives became pregnant. 

What’s the future of male contraception? 

For decades, men have only had two contraceptive options: wearing a condom, or undergoing sterilising surgery, better known as a vasectomy. The burden has historically been on women to prevent unwanted pregnancies through a variety of birth control methods, including pills, implants and injections.

Male birth control methods in the form of pills and a contraceptive gel are still in the testing phase. While the RISUG injection is ready after years of trials, the effectiveness of a second part of the treatment, which would make it reversible, has not yet been tested on humans. However, Sharma told the BBC earlier this month that the team hopes the initial injection will be “cleared for production in the very near future”. 


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